Friday 14 March 2008

Nevis 5, Dave nil!

A great but frustrating day out with Donald trying a new route on Ben Nevis I’ve already tried four times before. Each time I get out to the roof it’s just too hard. On my first two attempts a thin smear of ice on the lip broke off when I hit it, to my dismay. In a desperate bid to keep the ascent a pure onsight I reversed from this point back to the belay. By my fourth attempt and into my third season, I couldn’t take any more and slumped, gasping onto a runner. From here I spied a ridiculous tin opener move to get established on the headwall, definitely the hardest technical move I’ve done with ice tools. But the energy was gone from my arms, so I’ve had to wait for another chance, until today…

This time, more thin and useless verglassy ice had choked the tin opener placement, so I opted for foot off yarding on whatever scratchy hooks I could get. Of course, I fell off with a mercifully short plunge into the void below. Next time out I opted for more careful hooking of the ice blobs, I made three moves more progress but the ice was too thin and broke off once again with a more exciting dive into space. The wayward ice blob smacked me in the teeth to add insult to injury.

My fitness from Spain allowed one more try and this time I got through the tin opener crux with impressive sketching and a dynamic toe hook to stop a terminal barn door. Wow! Here I am on the headwall at last! I have a goddam chance here MacLeod!

No sooner had let that thought enter my head than the block I was torquing on and was holding my crucial runner began to lever off, my axe shooting out and peg dropping out not far behind. A sketchy last second hook saved a whipper, but immediate retreat was necessary. So now the route has yet another crux.

I seriously underestimated this thing, its nails and I reckon more airmiles maybe clocked up yet. But If I can get to that ledge someday and into those upper grooves, the Ben will have a mega route! The contrast from climbing in Spin could not have been more striking. In Spain you just turn up fit, and the routes eventually go. On Nevis it seems you can be in the physical and psychological shape of your life, and it still slaps you.

I’m humbled.

The project in question, moving out towards the roof.

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